DNR to upgrade state park reservation service; service to be down temporarily
The Minnesota state parks reservation system is being upgraded and will be temporarily unavailable December 27 through February 29, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.
"This will create a short-term inconvenience," explained Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR's Division of Parks and Trails, "but we know our customers will really enjoy the benefits of our new state-of-the-art reservation system."
The DNR is encouraging people to plan ahead and, if possible, to make their state park camping reservations for 2012, before the current system temporarily shuts down at 8 p.m. December 26.
Starting March 1, when the new system from US eDirect is expected to be fully operational, it will be easier to plan overnight outings to Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. The new system will feature interactive maps and show where to find available overnight lodging at a glance.
"We look forward to working closely with US eDirect to launch our new reservation system in March and thank our customers for their patience during the transition," said Nelson.
Key dates to note:
Now through Dec. 26, 2011: Summer 2012 camping and lodging reservations can be made until 8 p.m. online at stayatmnparks.com and by phone at 866-85PARKS.
Dec. 27, 2011-Feb. 29, 2012: State parks reservations service will be temporarily unavailable.
March 1, 2012: The DNR expects the new reservation system to be ready to accept online and phone reservations starting at 8 a.m.
From Dec. 27 through Feb. 29, Minnesota state park gift cards, which have been sold through the reservation system, will be available for purchase at Minnesota state parks and by calling the Division of Parks and Trails, 651-259-5600. Online gift card sales are expected to resume March 1. Recipients of gift cards will be able to redeem them without interruption for lodging, ski and snowshoe rental, and the nature-themed books, apparel and other items sold in at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. The Division of Parks and Trails has sold more than 5,000 gift cards since it began offering them two years ago.
The existing state park reservation system has been fully user-paid through a state contract since 2007, meaning no state tax dollars are used to provide this government service. The DNR's contract with its current reservation-system vendor, Active Network (doing business as Infospherix), will expire Dec. 31. The contract is rebid every three to five years.
After evaluating the responses to its official request for proposals (RFP), the DNR awarded a three-year contract to US eDirect, whose product, Recreation Dynamics, best met the criteria for cost effectiveness, flexibility and user-friendly functionality. No Minnesota companies responded to the DNR's RFP, but as part of its agreement with the DNR, US eDirect, which is based in Roslyn Heights, N.Y., has agreed to operate a call center in Minnesota.
Overnight stays at Minnesota state parks and recreation areas totaled 985,374 in 2010, up from 942,381 in 2009 and 863,075 in 2008.
Answers to frequently asked questions about the new system can be found at www.mndnr.gov/reserve-faq.